Dayenu: A Balancing Act Between Generations

If you read my last post, you will note that I was concerned about Passover — the menu and the meaning. Well, I’ve been busy, but both have still been on my mind. Here’s what I’ve concluded, with a little help from my son.


I mentioned to him that I want his generation to feel that they were getting the seder they would like and find meaningful. He warned me that I might be sorry and specifically said that, if he had a say, there would be no singing of “Dayenu.”


I decided to attribute that to our family’s decided lack of musical talent (with a few exceptions) rather than any lack of enthusiasm for the concept. In fact, in true Jewish mother fashion, I began thinking about the concept of “dayenu” — it would have been sufficient — as a metaphor for how differently each generation sees the relationship between Judaism and the world.


My children’s generation, the millenials, are possibly the most free generation of Jews in our people’s history. There is no university they can’t attend, no place they can’t buy a home, no job to which they can’t aspire. They are not even the grandchildren of immigrants, they are the great-grandchildren of immigrants. They knew no grandparents with accents — nor did I, for that matter. They have the opportunity to go on Birthright Israel, to see a land their ancestors only dreamed of existing. They have been given every opportunity, loving families, warm homes, good schools, travel, and more.


So I want to know, this Passover, what would be “dayenu” for my children and their cousins. They are at the very beginning of their adult lives. What would “dayenu” mean in their personal lives, for their hopes and dreams? Do they have a concept of what I would mean if I asked them about a “dayenu” for the Jewish people today? (I’m not sure I can answer my own question, but at least I know what I mean by “the Jewish people.”) What about a “dayenu” for the world at large? This is the balance I hope my children seek to find — how to be Jews who care about the Jewish people and also have room to care about the world in which we live. 


So we will ask some new questions this year. We will have readings on areyvut, Jewish mutual responsibility, and on tikkun olam, repairing the world. We will have hard boiled eggs, gefilte fish and homemade chrain (horseradish), chicken soup with matzah balls, brisket a la Karen, chicken breast stuffed with a Sephardic haroset and topped with a mint parsley salsa verde, carrot kugel, quinoa salad, with asparagus, and a beet-fennel-radish slaw. There will be wonderful desserts (for which I am not responsible, thanks to my generation of cousins and sisters-in-law.)


We will have a seder. And — dayenu — it will be sufficient!


Wishing you all a sweet Pesach filled with memories and laughter.




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